By: Dr. Elizabeth Hepner
Associate Veterinarian, Calvert Veterinary Center
Does your cat go running when they see the cat carrier coming their way? Duck and cover under the bed when they just hear you open the closet where you keep their carrier? For many households with cats, this is a familiar routine. The majority of cats don’t get the routine health care they need due to the amount of stress involved with getting them to the veterinary hospital. Bringing your feline friend to the vet for preventive care ensures they get the treatments that they need to live long happy lives. Cats often hide signs of illness so getting regular checkups is important for catching early signs of disease. Having a smooth ride to the vet also helps reduce stress when bringing them in for more emergent reasons. Follow these steps to minimize the stress for you and your cat of going to the vet.
Picking the right carrier is essential for a smooth trip to the vet. Consider your cat’s size, and handling tolerance as well as what will be easiest for you to use. Choose a carrier that is safe, appropriately sized, sturdy and easy to carry. Carriers that are hard-sided and sturdy and have both front and top doors make it easy to load and unload. Choose a carrier with an easy to remove top in case your cat is fearful or in pain so they can still be examined in their carrier. When driving to the vet, remember to secure the carrier either in a foot well or in a back seat secured by a seatbelt. Cats that have been jostled and bumped around in the car are often very angry by the time they get to the exam room. Playing classical music in the car is an additional way to help you and your cat relax prior to arrival at the office.
The initial step in making your cat comfortable in their carrier is to ensure their first experience is a positive one. Trips to the veterinarian should not be the only time your cat is in its carrier. You should leave the carrier in a quiet room or where your cat spends the most time in your house so your cat can enter it at will. You can place familiar and comfortable bedding in the carrier to make it more inviting. You can also place treats, food, catnip or toys in the carrier to encourage them to enter. Make sure to reward the behavior you want to see. So, if your cat explores or goes in the carrier, reinforce this behavior with praise or a food reward. Acclimating your cat to their carrier may take days or even weeks to achieve, so try to be patient.
If you need to get your cat in the carrier on an emergent basis, try to put them in a small room with few hiding places with the carrier. Make sure to move slowly and calmly. Try putting a treat or toy in to the carrier to encourage them to go in. If this doesn’t work, try to minimize struggling by gently placing them in the carrier through the top door or by removing the top and gently lowering them in. Make sure to calmly close the door. Wrapping your cat gently in a towel can help reduce struggling when lowering them in the carrier.
If your cat is still fearful after these methods, there are a few other things tools to use. Before leaving for the vet, spray a towel with Feliway stress reducing hormones and place it over the carrier. This also provides hiding space for your cat to help them feel more at ease. Feliway also comes in easy to use wipes to wipe down a hard-sided carrier helping to reduce fear and anxiety. Do these steps about 15 minutes before you put your cat in the carrier. Some cats who have had previous stressful experiences may need oral medications to assist in getting them in their carrier.
When transporting the carrier from the car into the veterinary office hold it in front of you with both hands, close to your body. Cats feel like they are on a pendulum if you carry it by the handle which causes a lot of swinging motion. Once you arrive at the veterinary hospital be sure to put the carrier on a bench or elevated surface to prevent nosey dogs from peeking in and causing more stress and anxiety for your cat. A towel with pheromone spray applied place over the carrier is also a great way to keep your kitty more comfortable in the waiting room.
Calvert Veterinary Center is Gold certified by the American Association of Feline Practitioners as a Feline Friendly Practice. This means we take additional steps to ensure our feline patients are comfortable in our hospital. We have a feline only exam room with a Feliway diffuser to help reduce fear, anxiety and stress. We also have a variety of treat rewards and toys to improve your cat’s experience at the veterinary office. Schedule an appointment with a doctor at Calvert Veterinary Center to discuss additional steps or medications that can be used before your visit to reduce fear, stress, and anxiety prior to their vet visit. Call today for an appointment at 410-360-PAWS (7297) or schedule online from our website at calvertvet.com. Calvert Veterinary Center is conveniently located at 4100 Mountain Road and has been proudly serving the Pasadena community for over 14 years.